Handheld Radios

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by jsstevens, Nov 27, 2017.

  1. chartbundle

    chartbundle Line Up and Wait

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    I have the 750L it gets mostly used for listening to the radio when working in the hangar and calling for clearances. I haven't used any of the Nav or GPS functions in flight. Battery life seems good. The side panel cover for where the headset adapter goes having screws seems suboptimal, thus a pain to hook up in flight if you need it in a hurry unless you leave the cover off and screw up the weather protection.
     
  2. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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    You said "the nav capability will never be used."
    I just responded with an alternate set of facts.
    Nothing intended or required.
     
  3. Clark1961

    Clark1961 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    In that case it is appropriate to point out that you are using the capability in an aircraft that doesn’t have an electrical system, much less nav radio(s). That situation is very different from the OPs situation. I understand that presenting less than the full story is common on POA. Just because it is common doesn’t make it appropriate or right.
     
  4. Flocker

    Flocker Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I have the Yaesu FTA-720. Excellent product for a backup radio. Also submersible - one of the reasons I bought it. Good to have in the flight bag when flying to the Bahamas.
     
  5. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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    Wow. Did someone steal your lollipop?
    I specifically stated I fly a J-3. I thought that would be perfectly clear as it hardly gets any lower tech than that. I've never actually seen a J-3 with an electrical system.
    Also the original op clearly stated he wanted it for backup while doing his IR. The 750L will work. It's not optimal, but it works.
     
  6. Cluemeister

    Cluemeister Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Have the Icom as well. The user interface is terrible. Great quality radio, but I wouldn't buy it again. As another poster said, you don't want to be fumbling around trying to remember commands during an emergency.
     
  7. Ghery

    Ghery Final Approach

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    I have the Sporty's 200 (I think that's the model, I'd have to dig it out to look). I concur with all of the above. I've had the radio for years and have never used the nav function. Now with a tablet and Garmin Pilot I suspect that record will continue.

    AA batteries are a must for any radio used infrequently. Rechargeable batteries self-discharge much faster. Carry spares, too.

    Headset adapter isn't a "nice to have", it's a must have. You won't be able to hear the radio over the noise in the plane otherwise.

    An external antenna is better than the rubber ducky that comes with any handheld. Just make sure the antenna is functional and properly tuned.
     
  8. Vince R

    Vince R Pre-Flight

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    Yes, I use it for ATIS and clearance before firing up...sort of gIves me a test of handheld transmit and receive. I’ve thought about wiring the handheld into the panel as com 3 - probably next time I have any avionics work done.
     
  9. C-1 PILOT

    C-1 PILOT Pre-takeoff checklist

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    If you own your own aircraft, invest in an external antenna with a short lead of coax in the cockpit. The difference between working off the handheld's antenna and the external one is night and day. Range and transmission quality are way better, almost like the built in radio when close in, landing at a controlled field.

    I learned early on, after experimenting/practicing with my first Icom portable. Had the external antenna added to my Grumman after looking at a friends setup in his Mooney. Only needed to use it once...
     
  10. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Several years after having some avionics work done (audio panel, intercom, etc), I'm upside down under the panel checking something and I note a loop of coax right at the bottom with a connector in it. I trace it out and find it's going to my #2 comm. Apparently, the avionics guy put it in there so I could disconnect it and connect in a handheld. Too bad he didn't actually tell me about it. Fortunately, I hadn't needed to use it.

    Actually, the rubber duckie is good enough to get into most towered fields. If you were trying to get help from a distant facility, yeah, I'd want a real antenna.

    Amusingly, I bought an old Sportys200 off another board member here for next to nothing. It was missing the antenna. I dug through a box and found an old ham 2m/70cm dual band antenna so I just put it on. I dialed up 135.7 (Dulles Clearance). I'm about two miles away and sitting in the ground level of my townhouse but I was able to get them to respond.
     
  11. CJ Rader

    CJ Rader Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I ended up buying a Yaesu FTA-550AA radio, last night. It was marked down to $199 and there was a $25 rebate on it, bringing the price down to $175. It was well-reviewed, and for the price, worth a shot in my mind.
     
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  12. rwellner98

    rwellner98 Line Up and Wait

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    Had a Sporty's, was total junk. Poor battery life, then mercifully broke - allowing me to try something else.

    Have a Yaesu and love it.

    The difference between a company that sells pilot pal's and outsources it's radio production, and one that is a radio company is apparent in every way.
     
  13. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You might have a look at Icom's new handheld (IC-A25), which can be purchased without or with navigation functions. I purchased the nav version two weeks ago.

    The radio is available in the U.S. and Canada, but it appears that it has not yet been released elsewhere.

    Some points common to the nav and com versions:

    1. Rated to IP57. It is the only handheld rated for dust (IP5) and 5 is the second highest dust rating. It is the only handheld rated 7 for water (8 is the highest). The Yaesu competitor (FTA-550L and 750L) is rated 5 for water. The Sporty's is unrated and the manual contains a warning about water.

    2. You can create 15 memory groups. The Yaesu FTA-550L and FTA-750L allow 7. I expect to use 15 groups, or close to it.

    The nav version includes Bluetooth. I have been using the radio with Jaybird Bluetooth earbuds and it works really well. I haven't tried it, but Icom makes a headset that can be used to talk as well as listen over Bluetooth. I suspect that Bluetooth talk function is coming in aviation headsets, although it would require Bluetooth functionality (perhaps through an adapter?) in radio units.

    The nav version can also be used with an Icom app (iOS and Android) that can be used for flight planning. As a ForeFlight subscriber, I am not sure how useful this is. However, what intrigues me is that the app can be used (via the Bluetooth connection) to transfer information/data between the app and the radio. It may be possible to populate memory groups this way. If so, this is preferable to the Yaesu, which requires a Windows computer and a USB cable to do this.

    While people frequently say that GPS functions on a handheld radio "will never be used", this does not take into account the Icom's Bluetooth capability. Also, I like the idea of a handheld radio that will give me my GPS position as well as communications ability in the event of a forced landing. I say this fully aware of the fact that my iPhone's Compass app will also provide GPS position and of the benefits of a Personal Locator Beacon (most of which do not provide you your GPS location).

    The Icom also puts out P.E.P. 6 watts instead of the usual 5. The real world advantage of an additional watt is subject to debate, but it's like chicken soup if you have a cold - couldn't hurt.

    A comment on the Sporty's radio... Equipped with accessories equivalent to the Icom and Yaesu (which come with pretty much the same accessories), the Sporty's is an expensive radio in relation to its features. It is also bulkier and significantly heavier than the Icom and Yaesu, and the rechargeable battery pack (available only through the accessory pack) uses inferior battery technology. I think that it is very bad value for money.

    I should add that the Icom comes with a "short version" manual and the Icom U.S. site does not have the full manual for download. The full manual is available from the support section of the Icom Japan site.

    Hope the above helps.



     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
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  14. Stan Cooper

    Stan Cooper Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I'd really like to see ICOM or Yaesu introduce a basic, straightforward handheld com transceiver with direct frequency entry, switchable active and standby frequencies, no menus or memories, a headset adapter cable, and rubber duck antenna with a standard BNC antenna connector for connecting to an external antenna. It would also be nice if it accepted a battery module with either AA batteries or rechargeable Li-Ion battery.

    IMHO, if you have a com failure and need to use the handheld quickly, you shouldn't have to fiddle with memories and menus.
     
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  15. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    The new Icom does all of the above except that it includes a memory function that you can use, or not, as you see fit. Indeed, the default mode is direct frequency entry plus the last 10 frequencies on the screen in front of you (or indeed you could enter specific frequencies that you want on the screen in whatever order you want). It comes with a headset adapter cable and a standard BNC connection. It also comes with two battery cases, one for the Lithium-ion battery and one for AA.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
  16. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    People considering the new Icom A25, the Yaesu 550/750 and the Sporty's might consider the following on weight:

    Icom with Li-ion battery and antenna: 384 g or 13.6 oz
    Yaesu with Li-ion battery, antenna and belt clip: 410 g or 14.5 oz
    Sporty's with standard AA batteries and antenna: 830 g or 1.83 lbs

    The Sporty's can be purchased with an optional accessory pack that includes an Ni-MH battery. The accessory pack is an additional $100. With the Ni-MH battery, the weight is 517 g or 1.14 lbs. The claimed battery life using the Ni-MH battery is significantly less than the Icom and Yaesu.

    It's worth carefully reading the specs on handheld radios. On its web site, Sporty's says that its radio weighs 240 g or 8.48 oz. That's only true if your purpose in buying it is to use it as a paperweight. For the truth, you have to download and consult the owner's manual.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
  17. nrpetersen

    nrpetersen Pre-takeoff checklist

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    A feature I'd like to see added to a handheld is two place intercom for those of us without electrical systems.
     
  18. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Not sure if I entirely understand your post, but...

    Icom makes a Bluetooth headset (the VS-3, which sells for about USD130) that can be paired with the radio for both talk and reception. However, this headset appears to use in-ear receivers that may well not provide acceptable sound isolation in a noisy aircraft (although I suppose you could place ear muffs over the in-ear receivers).

    Icom also says that it has tested the Bluetooth functionality with "some" 3M Peltor headsets (which do have ear protection) and that the radio works with them. It is possible that two of these headsets can be paired with the transceiver (the radio's Bluetooth functionality allows up to five devices to be paired), or that the cable adapter can be used for one headset and Bluetooth for the other, and from there it is perhaps possible to create something akin to intercom functionality. Perhaps worth investigating via a call to Icom and/or 3M Peltor.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
  19. wanttaja

    wanttaja Pattern Altitude

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    The in-ear receivers I use have 26 db of attenuation, the same as an ordinary passive headset.

    Ron Wanttaja
     
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  20. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Thanks, didn't know about those earbuds. I think that Icom is ahead of the curve by building in Bluetooth capability and that this is going to prove interesting for a lot of pilots, both on the ground and, for some, in the plane.
     
  21. nrpetersen

    nrpetersen Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Due to a major hearing loss (and with one remaining bad ear only) and a very noisy airplane (1940 Piper J4A) I need an active noise suppression system. I get this with an RST Intercom, a Headsets Inc modified David Clark 10-40, and a 12 v battery and an Icom A-6 based transceiver which has to have its internal battery. Others say my transmissions are very clear. But I would think this combination of needs would be common to a lot of the antiquers out there.
     
  22. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    You know gain antennas work indoors also, right?

    Just make a nice multi-element yagi out of fishing line and cut up dry cleaning hangers and hang it from the ceiling of your office pointed at the MilAv stuff you want to listen to.

    Side plus is that your wife will WANT you to move it outdoors nearly immediately. Then you can buy a real antenna. :)

    I’m a ham radio guy and I think the Vertex stuff is great... if you don’t need to bet your life on it. Icom all the way for the airplane. Yaesu/Vertex for the car and house. LOL.

    Honestly I hate the Yaesu/Vertex menu system. I have a bunch of ham HTs from them, Karen likes hers and one was dad’s. For ham HTs I was always a Kenwood fan. Better menu, better form factor, better audio circuitry, better implementation of features.

    The Icom stuff is based off of their commercial HTs and we’ve dropped those things off of towers onto concrete, picked them up, dusted them off, and kept using them. Yaesu never. Shatter into a bunch of broken radio bits. Because their Aviation stuff is based off of not their commercial lineup but their ham lineup. Cheap buttons. Cheap rotary knobs. Cheap. And brittle plastic.

    In the ham world now, I just buy ultra cheap throwaway stuff from China and check it for spectral nastiness. Can’t beat buying an entire HT for $30 delivered to your door with a battery. LOL. Again, wouldn’t bet my life on any of them, but they work for ham screwing around stuff. They’ve taken over the ham world. Heck a dual band DMR capable HT is now $169 delivered with a spare lithium battery.

    Aviation HTs are stupid expensive. Like everything else with an Aviation label on it.
     
  23. coloradobluesky

    coloradobluesky En-Route

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    If you fly floats or even if you only fly over water with heavy boat traffic, consider a marine band. Ha ha! I say ha ha because I dont think anyone will.
     
  24. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I was surprised to learn that the only handheld air band transceivers available in North America are Icom, Yaesu and the one Sporty's sells. Much less brand competition than on the marine side, much slower innovation/development (the new Icom is their first handheld air band transceiver in about 10 years), and quite a bit more expensive than marine equivalents. Yaesu, which as you know makes Standard Horizon marine radios, certifies its latest top-of-the-line air band transceivers, which came out about three years ago, at IPX5. From a major maker of marine radios, there's just no excuse for that. I guess the market for aviation handhelds is just a lot smaller.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
  25. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Maybe it's because I sail, but in my area (NYC) I wouldn't cross Long Island Sound without a handheld marine radio, and I'd take it before I'd take the air band Icom that I just purchased.

    Over water, I’m not much interested in overhead planes and NY TRACON - I’ll take channel 16, MDSS, the Coast Guard and the ability to talk with the vessel that I’m going to ditch beside and that is going to pick us up.

    But you're probably right. I keep seeing YouTube videos of people over the ocean in the NYC area, and I've yet to see one where pilot/passengers are wearing inflatable life vests.

    Because, you know, if you have to ditch in the Atlantic Ocean there's going to be plenty of time to remove seatbelt and shoulder harness, don an inflatable life vest, and then put the seat belt/shoulder harness back on.

    As a sailing friend of mine puts it, "They think they're going for a drive in the car" :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
  26. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    At the risk of talking too much, I want to add one more point about my decision to purchase the new Icom rather than a Yaesu 550 or 750.

    Icom is crystal clear on its web sites about warranty length and coverage. Unable to find anything about warranty on Yaesu’s U.S. site, nor indeed on any of its sites, I sent an e-mail inquiry asking for the warranty length and wording.

    I received a response saying that Yaesu includes warranty information in the box on purchase. Explaining that I wanted this information before purchase, I received a further e-mail saying that the warranty period is three years. Apparently this is up from the two years that Yaesu provided until about a year ago, and is now the same length as Icom.

    However, Yaesu’s second e-mail did not contain the wording of the warranty, so I sent a third e-mail asking for it for a third time. About three weeks later, I am still awaiting a response.

    I am kind of floored that Yaesu provides no warranty information on its web sites, and that after three e-mails I still don’t know what the warranty says.

    Some related comments...

    Please note that Icom warranties for a given product apparently vary in length by country. This may or may not have to do with local consumer protection laws.

    Sporty’s provides a five year warranty for its radio, but in every other respect I think that buying their radio is a bad idea. Given the alternatives, I think that the word “rip-off” is not too harsh. For details, see my earlier comments.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
  27. coloradobluesky

    coloradobluesky En-Route

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    I had a Sporty's. It worked fine. If you want it to work past 5 miles or so, you need an outside antenna (depends on the plane etc). I had an antenna installed for it. But they are all like that.
     
  28. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I didn’t say that it doesn’t work “fine”. I said that it’s really bad value for money, and in earlier posts I’ve given specific reasons for that opinion.

    That said, I’ve watched the video in which Sporty’s claims, based on an alledgedly objective test that they of course conducted themselves, that their radio has better reception and transmission than radios made by Icom and Yaesu. The video is rubbish, and is obviously rubbish if one watches it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
  29. Ghery

    Ghery Final Approach

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    For aviation, I have a Sporty's HT. Have had it for years. Yeah, it isn't the best, but for something that runs on AA batteries it works fine. When it dies I'll replace it with something else.

    I agree with your points on Yaesu ham radios. I have a couple HTs. An old FT-727R (which worked great until the transmit audio went wonky) and a VX-5. The VX-5 is a tri-band radio. Works fine, but the ink on the buttons has worn off a number of them and you need the manual anytime you want to do anything. That thing is NOT user friendly. My next HT will be something other than Yaesu.

    N6TPT
     
  30. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    In the nav versions, there’s an interesting difference between the new Icom and the Yaesu. The Yaesu has both VOR and ILS Glideslope. The Icom has the former but not the latter.

    The question is, why?

    The Icom is clearly designed to up the ante on the Yaesu 550/750. The decision to omit ILS/Glideslope, which the Yaesu and the Sporty’s both have, the Sporty’s being clearly a quite old design, would appear to be deliberate rather than technical.

    Thoughts on why Icom made that decision?

    This said, it should be noted that Icom is going in a different direction when it comes to what a “nav” radio means. This is clear from the Android/iOS app, although as I said earlier the utility of this isn’t clear if one is using something like ForeFlight.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
  31. Stephen Shore

    Stephen Shore Pre-Flight

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    I have a Yaesu 750. In actuality, the NAV function works very well. I bought mine after losing my radios and would not fly without a handheld ever again.

    I do think the menu system is a little complicated. I am so used to not having to read over instruction books when it comes to technology devices. This handheld is definitely not intuitive in regard to operation.
     
  32. Rory

    Rory Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You are not alone.

    I think that it’s fair to say that Apple was not in charge of designing the nav and memory interface of either the Yaesu or Icom. It becomes clearer when one realizes that the programming of memory is reminiscent of the 1980s/early 1990s.

    It took me about two hours to figure out how the Icom memory works.

    If the Icom can be programmed, as I suspect, via the Android/iOS app and the Bluetooth functionality, that is great, but I have not played with the app enough to know for sure.

    And of course instructions for the app are rudimentary at best. In fairness, the radio and the app have just been released, and are not even available outside the US and Canada, and perhaps parts of Asia, so perhaps we can hope for more detail, but I’m not holding my breath :)

    I can tell you that Icom US sales people have not got a great grasp of how the radio works. Asked whether I could use it with Bluetooth earbuds (in my case, Jaybirds), I was told to call their technicians. I just decided to go with it, and sure enough the radio works fine with Jaybirds.

    This is very useful preflight. As someone who lives close to LaGuardia, and who is learning ATC jargon and pace, it’s also quite cool that I can put the radio on my windowsill and listen to the traffic wherever I want in the room, and without disturbing my partner :)

    P.S. For those who read the Icom manual and wonder why the radio supports both Bluetooth and Bluetooth LE, the reason is that communication between the radio and the app, hosted by your Android or iOS device, happens via LE.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
  33. 1600vw

    1600vw Pattern Altitude

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    I use the I-com A6. I have heard traffic as far away as 100 miles. I do not use the little antenna that came with it. I use an antenna that is longer then the little rubber ducky style that came on this radio, I purchased this antenna off e-bay. This antenna is mounted to a window inside the airplane. I have no idea if this traffic could hear me. I never tried talking to them. This antenna cost me 12 bucks, I purchased a couple of these and handed them out to friends who use hand held radio's.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/AirBand-Av...dheld-Radio-/142603487558?hash=item2133d48946
     
  34. Ben

    Ben Pre-Flight

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    Thanks for the link, buying one now!!
     
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  35. SaltH2OHokie

    SaltH2OHokie Pre-takeoff checklist

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    How about an antenna for use at the house? I have the Yaesu 550 and wouldn't mind taking advantage of my house's tall roofline to mount some sort of antenna if I knew what would work well, or if it is even realistic to receive well at my location. I'm almost exactly 30miles from 2 different class C's I'd be interested in listening to and just less than 30 miles from our home field. That within range for listening with something halfway affordable mounted on the roof and a cable coming out of my kitchen wall attached to the Yaesu 550 (and then after proof of concept, likely some sort of 120v powered receiver/scanner).
     
  36. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    It depends a lot on whether there are mountains between you and them.
     
  37. SaltH2OHokie

    SaltH2OHokie Pre-takeoff checklist

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    No mountains. Mostly water, actually.
     
  38. ejensen

    ejensen Pattern Altitude

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    Second the calls for external antenna. I came back from Loreto, Baja with a Yeasu and an external antenna and a headset adapter including border crossing and class C landing.
     
  39. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    30 miles in the air over no terrain, I’m amazed you can’t hear it with a rubber dummy load (otherwise known as “the antenna that came with the radio”). On the ground, different story.

    You could probably make a quarter wave ground plane antenna out of a few pieces of shirt hanger wire and a female bulkhead SO-239, and hang it outside with decent quality coax, or make a half wave dipole, and it’d hear some of what’s going on at an airport 30 miles away. At least anything above a certain altitude.

    Assuming of course, nothing in your house or neighborhood is a horrendous noisemaker at the low end of VHF or your radio front-end isn’t overloaded by other RF crap in the near vicinity. That’s more common these days than the signal being too weak.

    I think someone else pointed out recently that most roof systems and attics are essentially RF-opaque and the antenna wouldn’t even need to be outside. Just high in the attic.

    What have you tried? Take the HT to the attic and see what it hears, that won’t cost a penny.
     
  40. Palmpilot

    Palmpilot Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Display name:
    Richard Palm
    Don't you mean RF-transparent? According to Webster, "RF-opaque" would mean that RF would not pass through it.

    Good idea.